In an Olympic year it was certainly appropriate to have a former olympian as a keynote speaker for the 2016 Survivor Celebration at Memorial Sloan Kettering this past June 21st.

On a gorgeous summer evening stroll up York Avenue to the Zuckerman Center of MSKCC, who could think about ice skating?

No one really. Well not until Olympic gold and multiple world champion winning skater Scott Hamilton took the podium to speak. Scott is not only a skating champion but a fellow cancer warrior who battled testicular cancer and later a benign brain tumor. He is a true survivor and he is also the founder of Scott Hamilton CARES; (“CARES” stands for Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship) which focuses on fundraising and provides online resource for chemotherapy and treatment information.

The site also provides one on one mentoring and support for cancer patients.

I can tell you personally, his website was a godsend for me on my journey through rectal cancer.

There were also representatives providing workshops from the Cardio Oncology department, Integrated medicine and nutrition.

Cycle for survival and Fred’s Team – the sport fitness focused fundraising arm of MSKCC was on hand as well as members of the Empire Dragon Boat team.

Of course there was fantastic passed hors d’oeuvres, live music and dancing.

For me, the biggest highlight is that we can meet other patients and survivors and even fraternize with the staff while wearing something beside a backless hospital gown and a snazzy blue robe. And let’s not forget all the photo opportunities!

I love that we have a support team, not only in our doctors at MSKCC but also in fellow patients. We seem to be a special breed. We have a camaraderie that is unique.

There are some amazing stories to be told. Some many that I have listened to and want to pass on.  Such inspiration!

I had a fellow patient (not with MSKCC) ask me “When do you qualify as a survivor to go to this event? 3 years? 5 years?”  I looked at her and thought for a moment and said “I have seen people in all stages of treatment at these celebrations over the past four years. I was 3 years NED but just had a recurrence and now I’m stage 4. So I guess the real answer is you become a survivor the day you make up your mind that you’re going to kick this things ass and not look back”

And so that was the inspiration for my photo op at the 2016 survivor dinner.

Best regards,

Kimberlie Liccardi